Does sculpture have a use beyond interior decoration? These sculptors search for meaning and subtlety to make works for a world where cash and collectibility are the belief. If future archaeologists excavated an urban site from 1998, they would find the trappings of an elaborate system of technological aids – from toasters, microwaves, electric carving knives to computers, and so forth. They would probably propose a system of belief in our craving for appliances.
These well known sculptors anxiously sidle up to a question nervously avoided in most contemporary discussions about art – what is art for, how can it be applied to life in the late 1990s? This exhibition is a humble exploration of the application of art, looking beyond the foyers of the affluent and alters of the pious into the everyday. These artists are archaeologists for today, digging up the common items and finding what else they say.
Using the confessional as a starting point, Chris Braddock creates a series of works that transmit spiritual resolve. These are carefully finished miniature confessionals as radios – or set up for broadcast. James Charlton starts out as if the work will be a superlative fitting, a domestic appliance. But somewhere along the path of construction the object becomes ‘useless’– its form alters and it becomes some kind of domestic icon. Paul Cullen uses science in a domestic way, the result is like ‘Pulp Science’. Bill Culbert literally illuminates plastic product packages – a tight metaphorical play on religious illuminations. Eugene Hansen packages spirituality into Tupperware-style plastic containers and Glen Hayward crafts consumer items out of discarded rubbish.
These are the mundane ‘icons of the time’, objects struggling for the contemporary zeitgeist and coming up with something… else. They are based in the available materials. They have molded the artists’ anxiety about their task, into the work. They struggle to be relevant to contemporary times and to bear the load of their role.
'Appliance' exhibition card, 1998